At the conclusion of a recent planning session, one of our Board members asked me what I thought about the whole planning process. I blurted out, “It was really hard.” And it was. A lot of hard work went into it. Usually I filter my thoughts a bit more before I speak, but it was a long day and I was tired and just being honest. And while the outcome was good, I could see that there was a lot more hard work ahead of us in executing the plan.

Also, I guess I was wishing for something more magical and brilliant - an idea that would make success much easier. There were a couple of interesting big picture strategies that could result in significant changes, but these were, “maybes.” The “for sure” executables were more along the lines of new strategies and tactics that would enhance our core competencies.

When I step back and think about this, that's just how it is. Unless you are doing something truly revolutionary in your planning session, like inventing the iPhone, it's going to be more about identifying the key factors for success in your business and figuring out how to be great at them.

At our most recent seminar, speaker Roger Seip called this being “brilliant with basics.” I think of this as excellent execution of the critical factors for your success. If you are Amazon, maybe it’s inventory management and order fulfillment, and if you're the Ritz Carlton, it’s probably all about service and quality. No matter what your business, it’s about identifying those key factors, figuring out how to propel yourself forward on those, and then executing the very best you can. It’s not as sexy as inventing the iPhone, but that’s where the real opportunity for success lies.

At our seminar, Roger quoted a mentor of his on this concept for success. His mentor said, “People are always looking for the key. What's the key?” he continued, “There is no key. It's a combination lock!” That's really it. Whether at a corporate or individual level, we all need to find the combination of critical factors for success. After understanding where to focus, it then comes down to striving for perfection in execution – doing the hard work.

Like me, at the end of the planning session, everyone would like to find the magic bullet for easy success, but that’s just not the way it is. As Thomas Edison said, “The reason a lot of people don’t recognize opportunity, is because it usually goes around wearing overalls and looking like work.”